One on One with Markus - Gord Apolloni

Sports have always been a part of Sudbury coach Gord Apolloni’s life, but boxing is the priority.
Gord Apolloni has been coaching boxing since 1990. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Sports have always been a part of Sudbury coach Gord Apolloni's life, but boxing is the priority.

Apolloni himself was a boxer, but has been coaching since 1990 as a provincial and national coach. He's coached athletes for a number of events, including the World Junior Games, the Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.

Growing up in the Little Italy neighbourhood of Copper Cliff in Greater Sudbury, Apolloni played a number of sports, including baseball, hockey, bowling and tennis. But it was a fight in his neighbourhood that got him into the ring.

"My dad owned a house with four apartments in it," he said. "The boxing coach lived in one of those apartments."

He says one day after school, he was fighting with another kid. The boxing coach drove by and went to Apolloni's father to tell him he thought Gord had talent.

"My first fight, it was incredible," he recalled. "The ring was made with garden hose. I can't believe I boxed in that."

He was 11 years old at the time and only 105 pounds. He won that fight.

"I was just hooked," he said.

Boxing to coaching

Throughout his time boxing, he had 86 fights and lost 15 of those. He eventually stopped boxing to study physical education at Laurentian University. That was cut short when he was offered a chance to be an apprentice coach in Toronto. He returned to Sudbury to start coaching.

Throughout his coaching career, he's worked with a number of boxers who have gained attention on the international stage, including Michael Stewart and Phillip Boudreault. Boudreault gained fame at the Olympics, but also has had trouble with the law since getting involved with the Hells' Angels.

"In the gym, he was an incredible boxer," Apolloni recalled.

"Leading up to the Olympic Games I know he started dipping into [what] I call the dark side. But in the gym before then, he worked his butt off and was a role model. He worked with younger kids."

His coaching career has taken him all over the world including Ecuador, Milan and Taiwan. He says it's something he plans to do until he dies.

"The energy that's required to get into that ring for the competition," he said. "It's the jogging. It's the technical work. It's the eating properly. It's working with your sports psychologist, a nutritionist, the massage therapist … once you see that whole team working together, that's what drives you."